Wolves’ 2-1 victory over QPR at Loftus Road on Saturday did not come without cost. On loan midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament mid-way through the first half, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
Wolves have never looked truly solid all season, and fellow strugglers QPR found it all too easy to play between the Wolves lines in the absence of a midfield presence. They play host to fierce rivals WBA on Sunday, and could have really do with Frimpong to add some bite to the midfield in the absence of the suspended Karl Henry.
The return of Jamie O’Hara is certainly a welcome one, as David Edwards has been ineffective of late, while Nenad Milijas is often snubbed by Mick McCarthy due to his lack of mobility. Kevin Foley is a steady option to slot into the midfield, but this exposes our defensive weaknesses no end. Richard Stearman has been shaky at best this season, and Foley really does provide added calm and links well with whoever is in front of him at full back.
Frimpong’s injury isolates another misdemeanour; the loaning out of Adlene Guedioura. The Algerian actually scored in Wolves’ 3-1 win over WBA at Molineux last year having almost immediately recovered from a fractured leg. He is energetic, wilful and presents something different. It’s difficult to accept that he is not good enough to at least be a squad player.
The big problem for Wolves is that the midfield is now a concern at all. Throughout McCarthy’s tenure our midfield has been strong and the lynchpin of our success – it’s been the defensive frailty and more recently a lack of instinct in front of goal that have been problematic.
Thankfully, new loanee Sebastian Bassong looks like a man who can restore order to Wolves’ chaotic defence. Many fans were disgruntled by the decision to drop Christophe Berra, who has performed with greater consistency than Roger Johnson this season – maybe Bassong will bring the best out in Captain Roger, we need him to.
It was also comforting to see Kevin Doyle turn in a good performance against QPR, and for that matter Sylvan Ebanks-Blake showed commitment and hunger for the cause.
Personally, a central midfield trio of Foley, O’Hara and Edwards / Milijas doesn’t warm my heart but equally doesn’t fill me with fear. Stearman at right back, however, does. But it’s time for him to step up, and hopefully Bassong and Johnson can provide the security he needs to help him perform.
Or do we ditch our seasoned 4-5-1 setup and go 4-4-2? We have better striking options than midfield ones, and our back four is as strong as it’s been all season. Perhaps we could drop Doyle into the hole and allow O’Hara to sit a little deeper.
In the cold light of day, we’d all prefer to be playing a solid 4-5-1 with Super Frimpong. But it’s how the team deal with the blow of losing him that will define the conclusion to Wolves’ season. We do have options available.